Proposed Medicare Part B changes are harmful to patients — Daily Rise: Thursday, May 5

Medicare Part B Changes Hurt Patients

In a piece published at the Sun Sentinel, Eric Hargis of the Colon Cancer Alliance says that the proposed changes to Medicare Part B sacrifice cancer patients for cost savings.

“Patient health is not something to be toyed with,” he cautions. “It’s time for the government officials who tinker with reimbursement formulas to realize that their fiddling has consequences for real people.”

Under the proposed changes, doctors would see their reimbursement rate reduced from the average sales price of the medicine plus 4.3 percent to the average sales price of the medicine plus 2.5 percent. Just a few years ago, doctors who administered a drug under Part B were traditionally reimbursed the average sales price of the medicine plus 6 percent.

Hargis says that the previous cut resulted in patients in rural communities losing access to care.

“The plan ignores the impact this change will have on patients,” warns Hargis. “Smaller community practices and those in rural communities will drop patients that lack supplemental insurance or send them to major hospitals for treatment; this occurred in 2013 with the “sequestration” budget cuts. The agency’s latest cuts will force more providers to turn away patients.”

$260 Million for Health Centers

While Medicare is working to cutback doctors’ reimbursement rates, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its award of $260 million to be used for health centers in 45 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

More than 800,000 patients will gain access to care through the funding, reports Morning Consult’s Mary Ellen McIntire.

“Health centers are cornerstones of the communities they serve,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Today’s awards will empower health centers to build more capacity and provide needed health care to hundreds of thousands of additional individuals and their families.”

This is welcome news for patients that will be served by these clinics… BUT

When viewed in the context of reimbursement rate cuts provided to doctors, this move shows the inconsistencies in our federal health care policies across departments and agencies. Providing doctors with fair compensation, as Eric Hargis of the Colon Cancer Alliance notes above, will help keep rural clinics open.

Quote of the Day

“I wish drugs would fall out of the sky free. Don’t we all.” — Mick Kolassa, consultant turned musician.

That’s a quote from Bloomberg’s recent profile of “The Blues Singer Who Created America’s Hated Drug-Pricing Model.”

Anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the ongoing drug price debate can learn a thing or two from this piece. Kolassa helped to establish the price models that are used for treatments. His goal in setting prices was to make sure that innovation was appropriately valued.

“When his 89-year-old mother grumbles about the bill for the glaucoma pill that keeps her from going blind, he tells her it’s a bargain. What price can you put on sight?”

It’s All Greek to Me

Information about pancreatic cancer is too complicated for patients to understand, according to a new study published online by JAMA Surgery.

Readability for medical information is recommended at a sixth-grade level. The goal is to make sure that patients can understand their treatments, symptoms and risks and make informed decisions about their treatment options.

Researchers looked at 50 websites that offered patients information on alternative therapy, chemotherapy, clinical trials, radiation therapy, and surgery for pancreatic cancer. Online information on pancreatic cancer required, on average, 13 years of education to be understood.

“These data indicate that online information on pancreatic cancer is geared to more educated groups,” wrote the authors of the study, which was led by Tara S. Kent, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. “The general population and vulnerable groups with particularly low health literacy will likely struggle to understand this information.”

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